ODDS and ENDS
Every month or so, someone will call, write or e-mail this Association wanting to know why they have not received a newsletter. Invariably they did receive the last newsletter. Please try to remember this schedule. Our newsletters are mailed twice a year, in May and November. Our directory is mailed at the first of July. Our membership year runs from July 1st to June 30th. If this newsletter you are reading has on the mailing label following your name, any of these items; 2000, C 2000, Life, C Life or any number higher than 2000, you will receive an address directory in July. If not, please join our Association or renew your membership. For a very special offer on memberships, see the story "From the Heart" further in this newsletter.
Our Association board of directors have decided to use money from our life membership fund for this newsletter printing. The cost will be roughly equivalent to one year's worth of interest. Later this year, we are going to purchase some Rattler / Firebird "golf" shirts for sale at next year's reunion. Please do not order anything from this Association if it is not listed for sale in this issue.
Around 1 September 1999, this Association will have a new address. Seabolt is moving back to his roots in the country. The new address will be: 7755 County Road 302, Terrell, TX 75160. The effective date will be posted on our web site.
Has anyone beside Ron Seabolt ever wondered about some of the radio procedures that were used by our pilots. I am referring to our sneaky way of heading to the snakepit without Charlie ever knowing about it. I have heard these words many times: "returning to bravo hotel, or charlie lima". I realize the use of the phonetic alphabet was proper procedure, but at the time, sitting back there in my cubby hole on the left side, I often wondered to myself, "Boy if these dummies (the enemy) can't figure out that bravo hotel means Bien Hoa, they are in a world of hurt". You lifers out there can stop laughing now. This was just the thoughts of a two year drafted soldier / civilian.
We are truly heartened by the love and respect that our men show for each other. There have been and continue to be many instances of some guy buying something from the Association for one of his buddies and having us ship it for them. That exemplifies camaraderie.
Frank Anton (WO 67-73!) continues to be successful selling his book, "Why Didn't You Get Me Out". Frank is now printing his own copies and has plenty on hand. If you would like an autographed copy, contact Frank directly by sending a check or money order for $20.00 to Frank Anton at: 730 Palm Dr., Satellite Beach, FL 32937, phone # 407-773-0059. Frank attends many veteran related events to speak and sell his book. If you have knowledge of an event that might be worth Frank's time to attend, please contact him.
Chuck Carlock's book, Firebirds, is also available through this Association with 100% of the money going to our group. You can buy an autographed book, then go to Las Vegas and drink your money up. Bottom line, free book!
Here it comes, fellas. We need your war stories for this newsletter. I know many of you are thinking, "I have a better story than that one". Get it on, bring it on! We are always looking for new stories, and everyone has a story to tell. Be it funny, humorous or tragic, we want to hear from you.
We have a contract with The New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, NV for our reunion next year. This will again be a four day event, commencing on Thursday, May 4th, 2000 through Sunday, May 7th, 2000. The reservation phone number is: 800-634-6966. Be sure to tell them you are with the Rattler / Firebird reunion. The room rates at this hotel are Sunday through Thursday - $49 for a double, Friday and Saturday - $69 for a double. If you think you may want to attend this reunion, I urge you to make an early reservation to help our Association in planning this event. There is a 72 hour cancellation notice required if you cannot attend.
The New Frontier Hotel does not have a showroom but there are plenty of places that do. If you have never been to Vegas (or to one of our reunions) we urge you to attend. All you West coast men need to show up especially.
Everyone who attended the Orlando reunion will remember all the free food and drinks that we were able to bring into the meeting room. This was a very unusual arrangement, one that we may never see again. As with our '95 Dallas reunion, all food and beverages must be purchased from the hotel. We should be able to provide unlimited drinks and some snacks, but you will probably find yourself in a restaurant for your meals. The good part of this is that Las Vegas is known as a cheap place to eat. In our November newsletter we will elaborate on tours and sightseeing that will be offered.
Chuck Carlock just finished putting the final touches on his AH-1 Cobra, shark teeth and all. Chuck has now obtained a wrecked OH-58 that he will return to display shape. Besides Chuck storing the Association's two slicks and the Firebird gunship, he has a T-55 trainer, and an OH-6 Loach. Counting the OH-58, that makes SEVEN aircraft. If we ever reunion back in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area, we will have one hellva display for everyone.
As at the Orlando reunion, we will be bringing a slick and gunship to Las Vegas, along with a large assortment of other items.
OTHER REUNIONS 1999
145th Combat Aviation Battalion Association - at Ft. Rucker, AL - June 18-20, 1999. Call 334-774-7300 for reservations.
Vietnam Helicopter Crew Members Association - at Denver CO - June 21-27, 1999. Call 1-800-842-6201 for details.
Americal Division Association - at St. Louis, MO - June 17-20, 1999.
Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association - at Nashville, TN - July 1-5, 1999. Call 1-800-505-VHPA for details
This Association has been notified of the following deaths:
Levi Ferguson (EM 69-70), died of cancer on 26 September 1998.
Tony Catalina (EM 70-71), died in February, 1999, as a result of complications from a liver transplant.
Georgia Jobson, wife of James Jobson (OF 67-68), died in February, 1999, from cancer.
Bob Parsons (WO 67-68), died of a heart attack 19 April 1999.
CHAIN OF COMMAND
Army aviation pioneer Lt. Gen. George P. Seneff Jr. died 2 December
1998 at age 82
A 1941 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. Seneff saw World War II combat duty with the 14th Armored Division in Europe. In 1956 he became an Army Aviator and chief of the Air Mobility Division in the office of the Chief of Staff for Research and Development. General Seneff initiated development of both the UH-1 and the CH-47. He went on to command the 11th Air Assault Division Test and in 1965 became chief of Army aviation, a position which allowed him to play a vital role in the Army's acquisition of the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter.
Seneff's service in Vietnam included time as an aviation advisor to the South Vietnamese government and as commander of the 1st Aviation Brigade. In the later position he was instrumental in developing the tactics and techniques used by Army aviation forces in Vietnam. He later commanded the 3rd Infantry Division in Europe, III Corps at Fort Hood, TX, and the 5th Army at Fort Sam Houston, TX. He retired from active duty in 1974.
Survivors include his wife, Frances, a daughter and son-in-law and three grandchildren.
Editor's note: This information on Gen. Seneff was reprinted from the Army Aviation Magazine.
FROM THE HEART
Editor's note: Last November in our newsletter, the offer was made to give a tail rotor drive chain bracelet to anyone that purchased a new lifetime membership by January 1st. We had about 35 men take advantage of this offer. Several men, who were already life members, contacted the Association about buying a bracelet. They were told that these items were not for sale at that time. We are now extending the same offer, buy a new life membership and get a free bracelet, or we will send you a bracelet if you make a $100.00 donation to the Association. These stainless steel bracelets have a Seiko tri-fold clasp and are truly difficult to find. See our Association order form in this newsletter. [Note: bracelets are no longer available]
One of the men who expressed a desire to purchase a bracelet was John M. Rankin, the father of John R. Rankin, who was killed in action on 15 November 1969. One of our members donated the money to send Mr. Rankin a bracelet anonymously. The following letter was received from Mr. Rankin:
Last week I received a package from you. My first thought was, why am I receiving a package from Ron? While opening the box I thought, is this the bracelet I called you about, saying that I wanted to purchase one?
When I saw the bracelet I was elated. I then opened your letter expecting an invoice of charges for the bracelet.
As I read your letter I came to the part about the anonymous donor. I had to stop reading so that I could gather my emotions. Later when my wife came home, I wept as I showed it and the letter to her.
In my lifetime I have had many kindness' bestowed upon me. None however has had the emotional impact that this great deed, by my benefactor has had on me. I am totally grateful to that person.
The best way I can think of to offer my thanks is, to remember him or her in my prayers, which I am doing.
I have had the clasp on the bracelet engraved as follows: SP/4 John R. Rankin 1948 1969.
Ron I cannot thank you enough for your part in securing this bracelet for me. I will treasure it always.
I have instructed my wife, when my time comes, the bracelet is to be given to John's maternal brother, Robert.
It is the intention of my wife and I to attend the next reunion in Las Vegas. We are looking forward to meeting you and your wife and the other men that served in 'Nam and especially those that served with my son. If it is possible, I would be very pleased to meet my benefactor.
Ron, please pass this letter on to the thoughtful and generous person that fulfilled my wish. I most certainly want this person to know my feelings. Sincerely, John M. Rankin.
WEB SITE COMMENTS
Comment on the guest book of our web site: My name is Stephen Caballero, a.k.a. Sgt. Cab. I was an RTO, stationed on LZ West 10/69 - 10/70 in the Battalion TOC with HHC 4/31, 196th LIB. I would like to thank Rattler 13 for his professionalism, courage and most of all his friendship during my tour in Vietnam. I was 19 years old at the time and responsible for a lot of peoples' lives during a few nasty times that I remember to this day. I never had the honor to meet him and don't even know his name, but I hope to some day meet him personally and thank him. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's note: Anyone from the above time frame wish to claim the wishes of Stephen. During a one year time frame, there should only have been two possible Rattler 13s.
Another web site comment: Great site, brings back memories! I was a "Sabre", D 1/1 Cav, just across the airstrip from you guys at Chu Lai. Anyone know what happened to Fred Murrell, who was a Rattler from WORWAC class 69-5? Signed, Nick Lappos, Sabre 74. E-mail address: email@example.com
Our web site is operated by Charley Sparks for the use and enjoyment of everyone. This site is an excellent way to pass messages to individuals or huge groups, using the guest book for your comments. As the years go by, more and more people are getting on the internet. We have had many men find this Association because of the web site. You can just imagine their surprise when those words "Rattlers" and "Firebirds" pop up on their screens. We urge you to use these facilities when you have any messages that this group may be interested in knowing about. Thanks for the good work Charley!
Thanks to Robert Toomey (EM 67-68) for sending us the Chieu Hoa pass found on the flight line at Chu Lai. If any of you believe that your war momentos might be trashed in the event of your death, you might want to consider donating them to the Association for display purposes.
OUR UNIT HAS MADE THE "BIG TIME"
I assume at least some people would agree that our gunship platoon has "arrived" when someone produces a high tech computer game and uses the Firebirds as their model.
Chuck Carlock's son-in-law, Daniel Patterson, called Chuck one night and said he had just purchased a computer game at the local computer store that had a picture of a Firebird gunship on the cover of the box. Carlock assumed that Daniel was joking and called his daughter the next morning and sure enough she confirmed it had the Firebird decal on the nose of the mini-gun ship and appears to have the 14th Aviation Battalion stripes on the tailboom.
The game is called M.I.A. - Missing in Action and starts out with an actual film of a young captain riding in a chopper about to take command of the Firebirds. Naturally he starts to sweat as the Major tells him of his first combat mission.
Carlock had two computer employees in his office for about a week getting the game to work. It takes a hot computer to run the thing. The computer guys were impressed by the quality of the game. It uses up a lot of computer memory, however.
The mini-guns and doorguns kick up dirt as the bullets hit the ground. Also the rockets did real damages to the VC hootches.
Carlock says the only thing not realistic is that you can hear the VC scream when you cause them to permanently start eating their rice from the roots up.
Chuck knows 13 year old boys that have mastered the game at all levels. Apparently there are six levels. Carlock was hit with RPGs every time on the second level. After his first mission, the game threatened to court-martial him because his VC kills were zero and he wiped out 18% of the Americans.
We intend to have a computer at our next reunion that will run the game.
Naturally we checked with an attorney and he said the name Firebirds (other than references to the book title) and the decal were not copyright property of the Association, so we can't sue them!
HEY HEY YOU YOU GET OFF OF MY HQ
There was something very interesting in the December issue of Vietnam Magazine. There was an article that dealt with a POW - MIA named Sparks. Dr. (CPT) Floyd Kushner, who was in the POW camp with our men (Anton, Lewis and Pfister), was mentioned in the article.
What is of interest to most Rattlers and Firebirds that served out of Chu Lai would be the reference to Hiep Duc. Anton was shot down and captured in the Hiep Duc Valley, just down the "road" from Hiep Duc Village. Million Dollar Hill, where we lost a million dollars worth of choppers (and three KIAs) one day one day in September 1967 is closer to Hiep Duc Village than the site where Anton was shot down and the infantry units overran in January 1968.
The article notes that Sparks disappeared in the Viet Cong area called Inter-Region 5. "This headquarters was located in the Hiep Duc area southwest of DaNang". The article goes on to note that prior to September 1965, this was the Viet Cong HQ for the area from Quang Tri (at the DMZ) down to Pleiku. In 1965 the northern provinces were broken off and placed under the control of Hanoi. Apparently the reason they gave us so much trouble in this area is they didn't want us around their major headquarters!
TO HONOR OUR COMRADE
Several months ago, this Association was contacted by Robert Jackson of Moore, OK. Robert grew up in the same town as one of our KIAs, Leslie Don Moses. Robert wanted to know if we could furnish him any details about Moses' death. We had already obtained Moses' deceased individual file through the freedom of information act. I made copies of all pertinent info and mailed it to Robert. He then used the information to establish a web site in honor of Moses. The web site is located at:
I urge you to visit this site if you are on-line with the internet. Robert also sent us photographs of Moses' gravesite and of a plaque located at the Leslie Don Moses Park in Wetumka, OK.
Another web site brought to our attention by Richard Rodriquez (EM 66-67), concerned the Vietnam Memorial Wall. It is at:
This site contains just about any info you wish to find concerning the "Wall".
According to an article published in a recent issue of Vietnam Magazine, the following conditions are now recognized as service connected for Vietnam veterans based on exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides: 1. Chloracne, 2. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, 3. Soft tissue sarcoma, 4. Hodgkin's disease, 5. Porphyria cutanea tarda, 6. Multiple myeloma, 7. Respiratory cancers (including cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea and bronchus), 8. Prostate cancer, 9. Peripheral neuropathy (acute or subacute), 10. Spina bifida - recognized as a condition that appears in children of Vietnam veterans.
Editor's note: The longer we live, the greater the odds are of being afflicted with one of the listed illnesses. I urge you to keep a copy of these for future reference. The VA will pay you or your surviving spouse for these problems.
The following is a letter received by this Association:
Dear Rattlers and Firebirds,
While doing research to initiate a congressional recommendation for an award for some of our members, I had occasion to speak with David Avey (WO 71), and learned that he had received a Distinguished Flying Cross for 24 March 1971. This DFC was the first decoration that I learned of which was received for that action in a timely manner. All recommendations were thought to have been lost as the 71st prepared to stand down. Dave was kind enough to send me a copy of his award, and I used the General Order number to conduct research at the National Archives in Adelphi, Maryland. I was happy to learn of Dave's DFC, and then amazed to find thirteen other awards for that date, a total of four more DFC's and nine Air Medals with "V" device.
These awards were made based on the original recommendation of Major Tommy C. Stiner, Brigade Aviation Officer, 1/5 Mechanized Infantry, for heroism by members of the 71st on 24 March 1971 in the tri-border area below the DMZ. They performed emergency insertions and extractions to reinforce and extract downed crews from an Air Calvalry unit. The following individuals were recognized in the orders found: CPT. Thomas Flanagan, DFC; WO1 Michael McGraw, DFC; CPT Thomas Pearson, DFC; 1LT Donald Wolcott, DFC; PFC Willie Cambell, AMw/V; SP4 Anthony Catalina, AMw/V; SP5 Riley Clayton, AMw/V (12th AWD); SP5 William Drewry, AMw/V; SP5 Thomes Semmes, AMw/V; SP4 Milton Shaw, AMw/V; SP5 Randolph Spencer, AMw/V; SP4 Douglas Starkey, AMw/V; and SP4 Robert Vandenbos, AMw/V.
I invite any of these men who has not received his award to contact me at (410) 827-8720, or mailing address 711 Long Point Road, Grasonville, MD 21638-1071. I will be happy to assist in getting copies of the orders, certificates and decoration sets. I would also like each of these men to contact me with the names of any other members of the unit who participated in this action. From the names listed, I know that not all of those involved have been identified. Sadly, I was informed by Roger Theberge that Anthony Catalina passed away a few weeks ago. An effort will be made to have his medal made available to his family.
Signed: Doug Womack, "Rattler 28"
Editor's note: A direct request has been received from Ronald Markiewicz to please respond to Doug's offer if you flew with Ronald on 24 March 1971. David Avey would love to hear from the crew chief and gunner who were with him and Ed Albrick the day they were shot down in flames during Lam Son 719. Contact David at: 937-376-4235. He would like to thank you personally.
RATTLER / FIREBIRD QUESTIONNAIRES
The following are some of the responses we received to our questionnaires that were mailed with the November newsletter.
From Ken Arthur (EM 10-8-67 to 10-6-68). Probably the most significant aspect of serving in Vietnam, especially with the 71st AHC, was the camaraderie. While there, I developed close relationships with guys who risked their lives daily and still laughed, joked and went back the next day. Without a doubt, it was and will likely remain the single most memorable event in my life. There are some very specific situations that I'll never forget. Like being shot down with Jim Miller just south of LZ Ross on O.P. 54 in 1968, or the drop into Kham Duc, or the resupply mission into Khe Sanh.
Just the everyday experiences that combined friendship, duty and some pretty extraordinary performances created a memory that, barring senility or Alzheimer's disease, I'll never forget. Finally, I'd like to express my gratitude to those skilled, courageous and sometimes crazy pilots for getting us home to Chu Lai and finally to the good ol' U.S.A.
(Don't get mad, get even) One day in the spring of '68, we were doing resupply in the AO south of LZ Ross. After bringing in hot food, C-rations and some booze to a hilltop LZ (the name of which escapes me) we shut down for lunch. I remember I finished a sandwich and took a walk away from "021" to find a place to dispose of the trash. As I was walking toward the trash pit, a grunt with no rank on his collar walked up to me and said, "Dispose of that trash properly or I'll hunt you down". This guy was convinced that he was the baddest dude in the valley of death! I couldn't believe my ears! He had seen too many bad "B" movies. Anyway, it turned out that he was a Special Forces Lieutenant on temporary duty at this grunt outpost. I told my pilots about this guy and we all shrugged our shoulders, had a laugh and headed back out to a C and C mission west of Ross.
At the end of the day, we were directed to return to that hill and load out the empty mermac hot ration cans and bring one "troop" back to LZ Baldy. Guess who that one guy was? Yep, Mr. Badass! I couldn't believe my good fortune. Believe it or not, this guy threw out a comment just as he got on board - "You're job is to get me back safe and sound and don't forget it" (or something to that effect). After lifting off, I keyed up and informed the pilots as to whom was on board. I thought that a couple of auto-rotations might be the least we could do for him - unannounced of course! I'm pretty sure the pilot was WO1 Rex Robinson. The first auto-rotation wasn't bad and it scared the crap out of him. The second one was world class! He almost involuntarily "walked out of the ship" as he screamed bloody hell! A different man walked off that ship that day (and yes, there is a Santa Claus!).
In the summer of '68, we were working south of Chu Lai, doing some recon and A.O. surveys following a night of heavy action. One little Marine outpost still had V.C. bodies in the wire as we came in to drop off a marine sergeant who was there for interrogation purposes. As he got off, he dropped his .45 automatic and kept on walking. We were revving up for take-off when I decided to jump out and claim the "booty". I hopped back in and off we went, back to Chu Lai. Well, I didn't go unobserved. The crew was cool, but a marine at the outpost saw me pick up the pistol and reported it. I had the weapon for about two days when the 1st Sgt Hillhouse called me in and questioned me. Now, Sarge and I had a special relationship! He was determined to get back at me after I spoiled one of his training film sessions by keeping the guys laughing, spoofing the film. When I left the hooch after the showing, he quipped, "Arthur, every dog has his day and I'll have mine". So now I'm standing before Hillhouse and he asked me if I had the gun? I, of course, said, "What gun?" He then informed me that I had been seen picking it up and boy was I in trouble. I was going to spend 6 months to a year in LBJ (Long Binh Jail) for stealing government property, in a war zone, no less! After about 30 minutes of questioning me, he said I could go but "Be ready for disciplinary action". Hillhouse looked like the Cheshire cat ready to eat the canary. Needless to say, the .45 was turned in and I was left to contemplate my fate. After over a week of worrying and wondering what Long Binh would be like, I heard through my pilots that nothing was going to happen to me! I was never informed "officially" as to why I wasn't prosecuted. It turned out that the marine had stolen the gun from a G.I. in a bar in An Tan! Sorry, Sarge!
From Mike Harbin (WO May '70-May '71) My most unusual mission was a night combat assault - due to a tactical emergency near Quan Ni, south of Chu Lai. The Colonel closed the combined O' club and we reported to our operations about 10 pm. Half of us were drunk. We flew a night CA to extract a Night Hawk that was shot down. The scariest moments - I was chalk 2 (I think) and we flew off the cockpit lights and tail exhaust glow from the bird in front. It was a successful mission as there were no mid-airs. I have forgotten the dates, but I think it was Spring of '71.
From John Brueckner (EM 70-71) The only mission that comes to mind, and it is quite hazy in my mind, involved a Loach team that went out and I don't remember where but during the mission the team was flying over elephant grass and letting the rotor wash blow the grass apart so they could see the ground. They uncovered a VC company hiding in the grass and the gunner got so excited that all he could say was "Aw shit, aw shit," in the mike. After they got him settled down, they went back and kicked butt. Of course the gunner's nickname instantly became "Aw Shit".
From Roger Hobbs (EM 2-'69 - 12-'69) The 22nd of September, 1969, "Black Monday". We lost a lot of ships that day (and had 2 KIAs). I took a round through my flight helmet that went in the front and came out the back. On that day, I was glad that I was short (my nickname was "Short Round").
From Jimo Menge (EM June 7, '68 - June 6, '69) In a previous newsletter, I recall the story by David Shaw about "Wake up guys". I have a picture someplace with a group of guys holding a Thompson .45, before the holes got put in the roof. I have blacked out my memory of Vietnam and would appreciate it if anyone remembers me to please let me know. I had a baby rattler painted on my ship for awhile. Editor's note: Jimo can be reached at: 101 Grinnell St, Colorado Springs, CO 80911. Phone: 719-392-5565.
From Don Klieiber (OF 3-15-'65 - 2-15-'66) The battle of Dong Xoi in June '65. It was the worst mission I flew in two tours. A number of aviators were killed during the battle. The 118th (Thunderbirds) had pilots killed going into an airfield on a French rubber plantation. Another crew from a company based at Vung Tau were blown out of the sky. WO Zoltan Kovacs was killed. He had been in A 501st but was transferred when a new company was formed in Vung Tau.
From Mel Jones (OF 9-'66-9-'67) There were so many interesting missions and time has done wonders in hiding so many of the details that I would be hard pressed to put anything on paper. I remember upon first coming into the country learning the ropes from 1Lt. Jack Horn and WO Will Hingston. I remember the great camaraderie of the Firebirds. The evenings spent trying to drink all the beer in country, both at Bien Hoa and Chu Lai. We spent many a day parked on a rice paddy dike just waiting for some action. Everyone always gave 110%. The crew chiefs and door gunners were the best and saved my bacon hundreds of times. I loved my job and wanted to pass on to new peter pilots all those things the old timers taught me. I miss all the guys I spent that year in '66-'67 with. I continue to take great pride in being a Firebird and in being in one of the elite outfits to have passed through Vietnam.
From Roger Hall (EM 9-'67-3-'68) My last mission kinda stands out a little (see "Just One More Flight" by Ray Foley from the November '96 newsletter) and Tet also rings a bell. Roger lists as his personal decorations, nicest guy in kindergarten, hornest guy in 11th grade, and the most improved temper in California.
Editor's note: Thanks to all of you that took the time to put to paper many of your memories. We need more of this for the posterity of our unit.
From a letter received by the Association:
I have just completed a six week Post Traumatic Stress Treatment in the VA Hospital in Cincinnati. This makes two months that I've been hospitalized in psychiatric units out of the last eight months for a total of four trips to psyche wards. I have been diagnosed with P.T.S.D. by the VA Hospital as well as some other stuff. I'm living in the woods in a house on the Tennessee / Kentucky border by myself. I am and have been unemployed.
I need some help. I have a disability claim with the VA, but to get service connected, I need more information. I have large gaps in my memory in addition to not knowing alot about what was going on in the first place. I remember Charles Fransham, supply clerk / door gunner and Mike Murphy, company clerk / door gunner. I remember R.J. Williams shooting holes in the roof of the hooch next to mine. I remember Larry Mack being killed when the recovery crew picked up a Huey that had been booby trapped. When was that? How can I document that? I remember the Tet assault on Chu Lai. When was that? Is there an account somewhere? The ammo dump on the south end of Chu Lai was blown up. When did that happen? Does a map of Chu Lai at the time of the '68 Tet offensive exist? Is there an account of the rocket attacks? Sometime in '68, one of our choppers flew into the ocean. I remember seeing the bits and pieces of the wreckage laid out in the hanger. Everyone aboard was killed. Who were they? When? I don't even know whether I was assigned to the 71st or the 151st Trans Co. Murphy would know that. If anyone can help with any of this, I'd appreciate it. Any suggestions about how to go about this effectively would be appreciated.
My nerves are shot. This looks like it's going to be a long haul with the VA. I'm so broke I can't join the Association just now. I appreciate you keeping me on the mailing list. Let's hope my future improves. I appreciate you guys being there. I was with the 71st from January '68 to October '68. signed William Brusewitz, HC 86 Box 336, Monticello, KY 42633. Ph 606-348-9116.
Editor's note: Bill was sent an address directory which documented and dated the KIAs he referred to. If anyone out there can assist him in his needs dealing with the VA, please contact him directly.
DARING PILOT SAVES MARINES
The following article is from the Americal Division paper Southern Cross dated August 17, 1968.
LZ BALDY - Teamwork by Army, Air Force and Marine aviation units combined recently with a daring individual effort by an Americal Division helicopter pilot to pull eight Marines from the jaws of a trap being closed by 50 North Vietnamese regulars.
WO Leon Schoenborn, of Columbus, GA, made two runs under intense enemy fire to pick up the leathernecks from the 1st Recon Battalion of the 1st Marine Division.
The fighting was so heavy that the rescue was delayed twice while the supporting gunships from the 71st Avn. Co. returned to LZ Baldy to rearm and refuel.
Schoenborn is also a part of the 71st Avn. Co., and had been flying a flareship helicopter in support of the 196th Inf Bde. when the emergency call was sounded by the Marines.
An Air Force "Spooky" flareship took over the illumination chores for Schoenborn as he prepared to move in for the pickup. As his ship went down, enemy automatic weapons began blasting away from all sides.
"I told him to abort the mission, but he elected to stay and try," said WO James M. Collins, Jr., of San Antonio, TX, the commander of the gunships.
The delay in boarding caused by the hostile fire forced Schoenborn back into the air after only three of the Marines had boarded.
The gunships used up all their ammunition covering the first attempt, and were forced back to Baldy for more. They had already rearmed once.
When the aircraft returned to the scene, the men on the ground reported that the majority of enemy movement had shifted to higher ground. The gunships attacked under Air Force illumination.
As the enemy force began closing in on the leathernecks, Schoenborn once again made the trip down.
"We moved in with all our guns firing, and the rescue came off fast. We used up all our ammo protecting them on the second run, too," Collins said.
January 2, 1967 was a memorable day in a couple of soldier's tour. Lt. Ralph Kuhnert made Captain that day and proceeded to get himself shot right square in the chicken board. The Rattlers were on a five ship mission involved in the sweep of a suspected VC area. Three of our ships were going in one LZ and my ship and Capt. Kuhnert's were landing in another LZ to try and locate the enemy. We were carrying American grunts and I had five on my ship "859".
Our LZ was marked by smoke from another aircraft and we began our approach. David O'Quinn was my aircraft commander and Don Flatten was the gunner. Naturally I have no idea who the peter pilot was. Nobody paid any attention to them anyway, unless your AC went dead on you.
As we flared to land in a water soaked rice paddy, we begin receiving fire from our 12 o'clock position. As was the custom, Flatten and I had our five grunts out ASAP and gave O'Quinn an "up". Unkown to me, Capt. Kuhnert had been hit and his ship never stopped. No sooner had I gave the "up" to O'Quinn than he said, "Get 'em back on, Seabolt". About this time I heard our C & C ship order O'Quinn to get out of that LZ.
We began a 360 hover to the left, with me pulling grunts back in the ship while Flatten put out suppressive fire on the right side. The grunts were also trying to return fire. Unfortunately, due to the aircraft noise, they were shooting 180 degrees in the wrong direction. After we had been hovering around these men for a few seconds, I saw a sight I will not soon forget. Automatic weapons fire was impacting in the rice paddy headed straight for me. Now if you are 6' 6", it's damn hard to hide behind that gray soundproofing. About this time, Flatten was able to silence the VC, as I reached for the last grunt. He had his M-16 by the stock, extending his arm toward me as far as it would go, while I held on to the post beside my cubby hole and grabbed his gun barrel and pulled him in. I will never forget the, "please don't leave me" look on that man's face. I gave O'Quinn an "up" and out we came.
I then realized that I had heard the C & C order to get out of that LZ repeated several times. Mr. O'Quinn would not abandon these five GIs, even though he had to face down automatic weapons fire to save them. We flew back to a dirt road and landed to check out the ship. When I got out of the ship, I could see JP-4 running everywhere under the aircraft. I crawled under the ship to check out the damage. That is when I got a bad case of the red ass from the jet fuel on my butt.
So now we are awaiting word from Snakedoctor as to whether we can fly back to Bien Hoa or not. And my butt burns. And burns. And burns. When I can wait no longer, I came out of my fatigues and sat down in the rice paddy beside the road. Now that was a relief. A few minutes later, Major Treat (Snakedoctor) gave us permission to fly the ship back. On approach to the Snakepit, O'Quinn requested 1st platoon Sergeant Lackey to meet us on the flight line for a medi-vac. Sergeant Lackey thought of his men as family (and still does), and was very concerned when we landed. I stepped out in my underwear and combat boots and told him my butt was blistered from JP-4. For some reason, Sarge thought that was funny as hell! O'Quinn then hovered over to leave my ship in maintenance for "combat damage".
I will never forget the rescue of these five men, by a pilot who could have just as easily followed orders and left them to their own fate. Mr. O'Quinn should have been decorated for this deed, but came VERY close to a court-martial for disobeying an order.
At our reunion in Dallas in 1995, John Lynch came up to me and said he had something for me. It was an 8 X 10 of me standing by my M-60 in my underwear, burning butt and all!
Editor's note: The above story could have been written about scores of Rattler and Firebird pilots. Men who looked death in the eye and did not blink (but make sure the bar is open tonight). David O'Quinn continues to serve the Rattlers as a member of the Board of Directors of our Association.
GUNSHIPS SINK 148 BOATS
from Stars and Stripes 6 July 1967
SAIGON - Three Army helicopters used searchlights to strip a cover of darkness from an enemy flotilla Monday in a 6 1/2 hour strike that sank 148 sampans on a river near Chu Lai.
The raid was one of the war's heaviest blows on Communist river traffic conducted by night-flying helicopters.
A three-ship team from the 71st Assault Helicopter Company spotted the first enemy sampans at 10 p.m. Sunday along the Truong Giang River between Chu Lai and Tam Ky.
Under a moonless sky, the three gunships flew through enemy fire from some of the sampans and the shoreline to strafe the boats 27 times.
By 4:30 a.m. the gunships had sunk 70 large 40 foot sampans and 78 smaller boats.
The gunships also destroyed 13 bunkers and killed 12 Communist soldiers.
Editor's note: According to the story above, the spotlight must have been in the door of one of the gunships! Not likely.
COPTERS SINK 122 RED BOATS
from Stars and Stripes 20 July 1967
SAIGON - Two Army "Firefly" helicopter teams Monday caught two Viet Cong flotillas and sank 122 junks and sampans.
Helicopters of the 71st "Rattlers" Assault Helicopter Company sank 71 enemy junks and sampans along the Truong Giang River 15 miles northeast of Chu Lai.
The attack took place in the same area where 148 sampans and junks were sunk two weeks ago.
Editor's note: I suppose this action made up for the previous action as no Firebirds are mentioned.
"FIREFLYS" MASH ENEMY FLEET from Army Reporter 5 August 1967
CHU LAI, (TF ORE -IO) A firefly team from the 71st Aviation Company Rattlers recently established a record for sampan and junk fleet kills north of here.
Supporting Task Force Oregon, Maj. William Arink (Rattler 6) and Maj. Edward Johnson sighted more than 100 junks and sampans along the Troung Giang River.
As the men switched on their powerful lights, they observed many boats on the river bank being loaded. Many more, laden with ammunition boxes, were moving away from the shore.
Dropping down for a closer look, the Rattlers drew small arms and automatic weapons fire from the shore line and from the boats trying to escape.
Huey gunships flown by Capt. Joe Carothers and WOs Ager Davis, Jerry Shirley, and Conrad Howard, directed rocket and machine-gun fire into enemy positions, resulting in 148 junks and sampans destroyed and 14 VC killed.
Editor's note: So now we've killed 14 instead of 12. I also have a very strong suspicion that my old slick pilots Jerry Shirley and Conrad Howard never set foot in a Firebird. To say the least, these reporters can juggle facts to fit their stories.
The following narrative was sent to this association by Tom Wolf (OF 67-68). Tom had no idea how he ended up with it. It is the story of Frank Carson's escape and evading capture the night the rest of his crew was captured and was written while Carson was stationed at Ft. Rucker after leaving the 71st. This story is also told in the book Firebirds by Chuck Carlock and is printed here with permission of Frank Carson, who retired as a full colonel from the Army.
Frank has told this Association that he returned to the area of his crash about a week later accompanied by a couple of platoons of infantry. They dug up scores of graves looking for his missing crew members. All the bodies they located were Vietnamese and the enemy had withdrawn from the valley.
Frank did not know the fate of these crew members until 1973 when he saw on TV, Anton and Pfister get off the aircraft in the Philippines with the other returning POWs.
Some of this original story was altered by the military in order to keep exact information from getting back to the enemy.
January 5, 1968. The most reinforcing experience of my life, - for life - began that night of January 5, 1968. I know not where to begin, nor where to end my story. Certainly the story is not ended, for the rest of the crew on the UH-1C gunship, in which I was the pilot have never, to my knowledge, been located. There is only speculation on their capture; speculation on their death. My sincere wish is that one day they will write an ending to this story.
Surely "heroic" is not descriptive enough for the men of the 71st Assault Helicopter Company who, that night, attempted the most awesome rescue the mind can conceive. To begin, one must visualize the situation. To say that a UH-1C helicopter gunship was shot down in South Vietnam is not enough. Those of you who have flown a rescue mission at night in unfriendly territory realize the inherent risk involved. Unfortunately our crippled aircraft came to rest in the Que Son Valley on its right side, at night, and in the middle of the 2nd N.V.A. Regiment. Not more than one-half mile away, the company from the 196th LIB, that we were trying to help in its own desperate attempts for survival, would be over-run by the enemy.
From this night came the story of many men and their desperate attempts to rescue the downed gunship crew from a seemingly hopeless situation. Such stories as the second gunship in the fire team who attempted immediate rescue until his gunship was so severely crippled by anti-aircraft fire that it was a miracle he could fly to a friendly location to land (he was to learn later that he and his crew's quick action and perseverance saved my life). Our company commander and a seasoned warrant officer, who attempted to fly down a powerful beacon light to our position in the blackness below their aircraft, became crippled with holes and spewing fuel. The pilots and crews from the 71st who, time after time, attempted rescue until they too became crippled and had to return to base, and the flare-ship pilot who, ignoring the hostile fire, never did call it a night...
Theirs was the story of heroism, the relentless, stubborn refusal to quit with the full realization of the odds against survival, much less the odds against a successful rescue! Thus you can forgive me for not mentioning their names, for this was a team effort, from the flare builder, the volunteer gunner, to the pilot at the controls of a rescue aircraft, and I wouldn't want to leave out anyone...
I was almost upside-down, suspended from my seat belt, when the grinding of tearing metal ceased. A fantasy land of orange streaks played before my eyes and I was shocked into reality. The slapping concussions of machine-gun fire were everywhere, tracers illuminating the blackness. Looking back, and to the right, I could see a cargo door...then I was on the ground diving for the safety of a rice-paddy dike. Like me, the rest of the crew found momentary shelter in scattered locations against rice-paddy dikes nearby. As Army aviators say, it was a successful landing.
A momentary silence afforded time for a self examination. My left arm felt numb, as I straightened it with my right, the shoulder popped into place. On further examination, I determined the cuts on my arms and face to be minor - no broken bones to restrict mobility - in good shape.
Suddenly the tree-line immediately to our front illuminated in a white blinking rhythm from erupting muzzles. The mud and water around me came alive from snapping bullets. My rifle, my pistol! In the aircraft, along with a rescue radio, a survival kit...they all might as well be a million miles away. Take heed, Army aviators, what the old-timers say is true, if it is not on your person when you crash, then it won't be with you when you exit the aircraft. My pistol belt, I remembered, was hanging on the seat, and my survival radio on the floor.
I was in a completely helpless position, no avenue of escape. It would have ended there had not, at that moment, the second gunship commenced pounding the woodline with seventeen pound warhead rockets. As he was diverting all the hostile fire on himself, I scrambled to some brush adjacent our immediate area. It was from this new position that I was to witness the heroics of futile rescue by my gallant friends.
It became obvious to me that effecting an escape by air was out of the question long before the aircraft overhead began to leave. The NVA were no longer assaulting the aircraft openly because of air cover and flares, but they were nontheless infiltrating our position. When seven NVA glided past my location, I resolved to move as far away from the aircraft as possible. It would only be a matter of time before discovery were I to remain. Eventually only one aircraft remained, the flare ship. Its murmuring sound above the recurring pop of an igniting flare became a hypnotic rhythm in the still night. One could sense the enemy's silence, his listening for a voice, a sound, a movement with which he could locate his prey.
The sound of water...the gurgle, tinkle of a stream or river. If I could just get to that river...I swim well, and it should flow eastward, to the ocean...it could be my avenue for escape.
The flare ship was not orbiting directly overhead, and consequently with each igniting flare the rice paddy dikes were casting shadows. These inky shadows would become my camouflage. I eased myself out of the brush and into the black water alongside one rice paddy dike and, remaining in the shadow, I began the painfully slow progress toward the sound of moving water. As I eased forward on my belly, I prayed I would not ripple the water. On reaching each intersecting dike, I would wait until the aerial flare died, then slip up and over the top before the next flare ignited. After an interminable time I had covered only several yards, yet the sound of water was louder.
Suddenly a loud whistle and whine broke the night air. It began with a high pitch and wound down to a low whine with a resounding thud. The artillery shell impacted and the ground trembled. There was another more distant impact, and then a more close one. Another impacted behind me, another in front. The American artillery, coming from LZ West, was impacting all around our ship in the desperate attempt to stay the enemy until morning. How could they know that the NVA were inside the bracket with us? (I was later to learn that during this time, LZ West was also under heavy ground assault, yet they continued to fire artillery support for the lost aircraft down in the valley, and even tried to locate the ship all night long with a huge spotlight)
I finally reached the river bank, and in my ungraceful efforts to slide over the top I was spotted. (The slime on my fatigue shirt must have shone like a mirror in the flare light, giving my position away) Into the water I splashed with the sounds of shouting and shooting behind me. With the snapping of bullets above, I went under the surface and swam with the current, coming up occasionally only for air. I began to feel truly trapped again. Artillery was pounding on one bank, enemy shouts getting louder on the other. I chose the opposite bank, and scrambling onto the bank, I began a fast low-crawl. Belly to the ground, my only thought was to keep going. One impact led to another and yet to another until my senses became dulled, my ears a dull ringing. (Later a doctor would show me that the concussions had driven tiny pieces of shrapnel and particles into my chest and side)
Emerging from my concentration, it occurred to me that the concussions were no longer close. I had penetrated the bracket and the artillery was behind me. I realized that by some miracle or quirk of fate, against fantastic odds, I was now beyond the immediate aircraft area, and beyond the artillery bracket...no longer was the wounded aircraft a marker to the enemy for my location. No longer was I a target. The danger of the enemy had diminished.
Dawn could not be long away, and I felt mentally and physically exhausted. Traveling during the day would be too risky I decided. I would look for a place of concealment in which I could sleep until the next night, then travel again. The sound of gunfire and impacting shells assumed a distant and far away place, leaving only a ringing in my brain.
Thankfully, I slid down an incline into a sunken area beside a clay embankment, grabbing an armful of fronds, dead branches and leaves as I went. I let my body sink below the black ooze, and with the collected debris, I covered my head and chest. Dimly I was aware of movement, but it was not the sound of man. Before my eyes closed, I attempted to analyze my future activities toward rescue. I tried to recall the aerial map but could only come up with generalities. To the southeast an American infantry company was in contact with the enemy. I would avoid this area. The idea of creeping up on a besieged company didn't agree with me at all. To the north was LZ West. It was common knowledge that the slopes of fire support bases are heavily mined, so that area was also to be avoided. There should be nothing to restrict my movement directly down the valley, due east. Once on the coastal plain I could contact friendly forces more easily...EAST! I sat up. Where is east? Above me through a clearing shone Cassiopeia's constellation. I drew an arrow in some elevated dirt, then leaned back and closed my eyes.
What caused me to awaken some hours later I do not know. Subconsciously, however, I knew something was wrong. The air was heavy with fog, yet the light above me indicated morning was here. Something was blocking my vision above my eye. I removed the brush from over my head and tried to brush the object from my face, but could not. My hand was in view, and completely enveloping my fingers and hands were leeches! In a frenzy I pulled at them, but they only slipped through my fingers or broke in half. I finally gathered my composure and, crawling from the water, I sat for a long time just pulling leeches from my body. They had gone up my sleeves, up my fatigue trousers and covered my hands and face, some growing six inches and longer. The rupture of leeches left the surrounding ground red with my stolen blood. After a while, having accomplished the unappetizing chore, I stood up. Again I woke from a lying position, obviously having fainted. I had lost a good deal of blood and was consequently weak. Suddenly I wanted to laugh. The universe was playing games with me, plucking me from hell only to watch me flounder, too weak to walk. Angrily I rose to my feet. I could no longer afford the luxury of waiting for nightfall. I must attempt movement now, before I weaken further. And then, as I reflect back, I did a crazy thing, made an insane decision which, comical or not, very possibly saved my life. To travel in my weakened state, I would have to travel an easy path and avoid the rough undergrowth of jungle. To do this I decided to go native style. Off came the clothing, including everything except the dirty, soiled (once white) boxer underwear. I was dark complected as are the natives, even though my 6'2" frame was stretching the idea a bit. Rubbing a little additional mud around my ankles, out I brazenly walked into the morning fog lacking only my water buffalo. My buried clothes behind me, into the middle of the valley I walked, striding with toes pointed outward and shoulders "sloped" as do the natives of Vietnam. Thusly I strode, paralleling a major trail which led east, taking care not to go near the main trail, nor to pass close enough to any object which might afford a perspective on which to compare my height.
Eventually the sun beat through the thinning fog and onto my face. Being successful thus far my body began to relax as I shuffled along. Then I heard helicopters followed with again the sounds of gunfire. Passing by an embankment I spied, beneath an overhang, a stack of assorted enemy weapons, and again the adrenaline flowed. I looked neither right nor left, and continued my shuffling walk. That shuffling walk was to eventually take me to the mouth of the Que Son Valley, long after the sun had devoured the fog, long after my walking became mechanical.
It was afternoon, the sun on my back, when the profusion of natives, men and women on the main trail, who were carrying goods for the marketplace, gave me hope that I was in friendly territory. I apprehensively turned to intersect the main trail.
Immediately several nearby and very surprised natives looked at my height, then my face in astonishment. Shortly I had collected not less than twenty children, laughing and shuffling along with me.
A Popular Forces (South Vietnamese) soldier, witnessing the comedy, approached and attempted to communicate a question. Over and over I talked on an imaginary phone until he finally got the idea and away he led me, followed by an impossible assortment of natives, to the outpost of Nux Loc Son. Here a bewildered American Sergeant radioed for a medivac helicopter, and within the hour I was in the American infirmary on Hill 35. Now I could relax, contemplate my ordeal, and thank my friends.
And here will I end these reflections on my experiences in the Que Son Valley the night of January 5, 1968.